The Prince of Transylvania’s court cookbook
From the 16th century
THE SCIENCE OF COOKING
You can find a copy of it here:
The recipes I have tried are here: Prince of Transylvania's court cookbook
The recipe is #170,
Gosling with Sour Cherry Sauce
Have enough sour cherry for the gosling, pour some wine onto it; once washed, cook white bread insides and honey with the food as well; once cooked, pass it through a strainer, then add some salt and honey, and a bit of almonds, then cook them together. I’ve told you how to serve it.
I figured it would be hard to get a gosling, so I settled for a duck from an Asian market. But the sour cherries were the real challenge: Everything I read said, "If you can't get sour cherries, use sweet ones and add lemon juice to make it sour."
I really didn't want to do that. I wanted to try the Official Sour Cherries. So the duck remained in my freezer until I found a new European market one day. The place was small but it had two freezers with interesting ice creams and... bags of cherries. I asked the owner if the cherries were sweet or sour. She looked dejected and said, "These are European cherries, so they are sour."
Her expression brightened when I said, "Hooray! Sour cherries!" and I bought two bags.
Now I was ready. Everything I needed to make the recipe was acquired!
1 duck, cleaned and with the head and feet removed
2 ounces fresh bread crumbs, crust removed
about 2 tablespoons honey for the duck and another 1 tablespoon for the sauce
1 to 1 1/2 cups red wine
300 grams sour cherries (mine were pitted already)
salt to taste
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
|The honey was en route.|
Put the duck in a big, oven-safe pan with a lid. Add the cherries, bread crumbs, honey, and red wine. Stir to mix as best as you can around the duck.
Cover and bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake another 15 minutes, or whatever it takes to get the internal temperature to 170 degrees.
|Mmmmm. Smells good!|
|It produced nearly two cups of liquid|
Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, and let boil/hard simmer for a few minutes. The sauce got noticeably thicker, just not thick.
I sliced some of the breast meat before spooning the sauce on top and serving. I dug deep into the sauce to make sure I got almond bits for the top.
|Well, I should have arranged the parts a little more artistically.|
I served it with a side dish of green beans and some fresh bread. Because my cherries were pitted, I put some of them from the strainer onto the top of the duck.
Reactions were mixed. The guest taster thought the meat was tender and succulent and the sauce was wonderfully flavorful. I thought the meat was tough and had an off-flavor, but the sauce was wonderful. So we agreed on the sauce!
It was thick enough to stick a bit on the meat's surface. I put the extra sauce in a bowl on the table because we both wanted more sauce with the meat.
We thought the sauce was just right for tartness, with enough sweetness to keep our mouths from puckering. The almonds added a crunchy texture, which was welcomed, and their flavor went well with the cherries. The juices from the duck brought a savory deepness that kept it from becoming a dessert sauce. It was also rich from the fat.
During the meal, the fat collected on top of the sauce, which I didn't like much. I think next time I would try to remove much of the fat from the juices before making the sauce. That would also make it easier to get sauce on the bread which I dipped into the sauce.
There was a lot of sauce left over, which I plan on using with other cooked meats.
I spent some time considering if the sauce would be improved with the addition of spices. I think not, in that the cherry flavor was really emphasized in this simple sauce, and that a spice like cinnamon or cloves would shift the emphasis away. Perhaps pepper, to bring some bitter into the sweet-sour combination. I think I would add spices only if I wanted a change from the "usual." (Unlikely!)
I also asked around about the off-flavor of the duck meat. To me, it was strong enough to be off-putting. I did not like the meat and the scent it had. It might have been a gland that wasn't removed well when the duck was cleaned. I really don't know. So if I wanted this sauce again, I think I would use a chicken or a fatty piece of pork.